Photos by Kyle West

By Drew Simpson

The Mustard Seed Co-operative’s new café is just shy of two weeks old. The café fits in a perfect hub on the left upon entering the grocery store. The warm string lights, wooden details and contrasting black backdrop displaying the café menu set a welcoming tone for the Mustard Seed Co-op.

At one end of the space lays the café, inside the store yet out of the way of potential shopping. At the other end of the store and directly opposite the café counter is a cozy area with tan round wooden tables, earth-toned chairs and an L-shaped wood bench. It feels like the perfect progression: ordering a coffee, walking across the store to take a seat or walking around the aisles to shop for local food.

Although the grocery store is a co-operative, there is no membership needed to shop or to enjoy the café’s fair trade coffee, tea, espressos, lattes and Italian sodas with house-made syrups. However, after seeing the harmony between the café counter and the community space all within this grocery store, one can imagine it would be worthwhile to be a part of the community that birthed and built the Mustard Seed café.

Stacey Allen-Cillis, the operations team lead and a founder of Mustard Seed Co-op already knew the importance of local eating due to her own backyard garden started by her two kids. She started by selling produce from her own backyard and gave all the proceeds to youth at risk.

The people behind the Mustard Seed Co-op are not the only ones interested in urban farming and local eating. Passersby will come across houses selling backyard farm produce on walks through the neighbouring streets and boulevards.

“The Mustard Seed community is all very like-minded. We are all connected…so either you’re growing your own, you go to a community garden, you utilize farmer’s markets, you’re passionate in some way about food, community and beyond. It’s all intertwined,” explained Allen-Cillis.

When the community expressed a need for the café, the co-op board agreed. The fated café became a reality through cooperation between staff, committees and even volunteer ‘worker bees’ that built the space.

It is only natural for the café space, which includes an indoor and outdoor section, to double as a community space. Adding another medium for Mustard Seed Co-op to connect with the community. The intention is also for everyone in the neighbourhood to have access to a space that is their own, especially with a lack of cafés within a kilometre radius. The Co-op will also utilize the space to continually educate its shoppers and members about the importance of local eating.

With the café honouring the five-year anniversary of the business, it also symbolized that the Mustard Seed Co-op is fulfilling its prophecy as ‘the mustard seed is an ancient metaphor for great things coming of small beginnings,’ as mentioned in the membership passport.

Additionally, it is the only Co-op grocery store in Hamilton. Allen-Cillis foresees either opening another location in Hamilton or encouraging the sprouting of another Co-op by sharing the Mustard Seed Co-op’s success. Allen-Cillis always stresses that everything accomplished is through the cooperation of the Co-op’s members, staff and community.

The Mustard Seed Co-op’s members are able to attend general assembly meetings where they can vote and take part in specific committees, like the sourcing committee, which focuses on where local food is coming from, or committees like the one that made the café a reality.

Walking through the grocery aisles, café and community space seems like the perfect intersection between conscious eating and supporting the community. For the health conscious shopper who loves to give back by purchasing locally sourced produce, the Mustard Seed Co-op is a great grocery store and now, a great café with a community space you can call your own.

[thesil_related_posts_sc]Related Posts[/thesil_related_posts_sc]

Sarah O'Connor
Staff Reporter

For Coffee:

Homegrown Hamilton

27 King William Street

Phone: (905) 777-8102



Facebook: Homegrown Hamilton

Twitter: @HomgrownHam

Fair Trade coffee is probably the first thing people associate with the term. While there are many places around McMaster that sell Fair Trade coffee (such as Union Market and My Dog Joe), it’s nice to explore the city a bit more and experience the downtown core. Homegrown Hamilton freshly roasts their coffee right in front of you using only Fair Trade and organic beans from around the world. They offer a variety of coffee flavours as well as snacks for you to enjoy. The café-by-day, bar-by-night, offers weekly live entertainment by local and non-local artists.


For Food:

Ten Thousand Villages

162 Locke Street South

Phone: (905) 522-1626



Facebook: Ten Thousand Villages Canada

Twitter: @VillagesCanada

Celebrating its 68 Anniversary as the largest Fair Trade retailer in North America, Ten Thousand Villages is definitely the most interesting of the shops because everything it sells is fair trade: coffee and tea, jewelry, and food items from India, Bangladesh and many other places. Additionally, Ten Thousand Villages also sells a variety of fair trade chocolate and spices for cooking− a great way to spice up Ramen Noodles or a way to liven up dessert!


For Art:

The Quirky Crocodile

600 Upper Wellington Street

Phone: (905) 387 0404


Email: the

Facebook: The Quirky Crocodile

Twitter: @quirkycrocodile

The Quirky Crocodile is a brand-new store to Hamilton that opened its doors on Feb.1. As well as selling fair trade coffee and tea, The Quirky Crocodile also sells gorgeous Fair Trade metal wall art from Haiti. The wall art is unique as it is recycled from steel oil drums and made with a hammer and chisel. The Quirky Crocodile also sells bamboo wind chimes, decorative masks, and products made by local artists such as hats, mittens, and sock animals.

Sophia Topper
Staff Reporter

A couple Saturday afternoons ago, I drunkenly berated an unsuspecting guy in Centro about his coffee choices. Now, this was homecoming, so a little belligerency, while rude, was not unexpected. Now that I have offered a paltry defense for my ill-manners, you are probably wondering what about his coffee raised my ire. Am I a Starbucks diva? A black coffee snob? A patriotic double-double drinker? No. I am passionate about fair trade.

75 mg wellbutrin

To me, it’s simple.

You can pay the same price for two products, one of which contributes to some horrific living conditions in Latin America, and one does not. Perhaps Fair Trade is not perfect: Direct Trade is being heralded as the best thing in responsible consumption these days. Nevertheless, it isn’t really about Fair Trade – it’s about the little things.

I am mystified by some people’s reticence about performing these small tasks. Sure, you may prefer the Colombian Dark to the Brazilian Dark, but really, it’s one dollar drip, not a glamorous espresso based concoction—is there that much of a difference? Perhaps to you, there is. I’m not demanding that you deny yourself the things you love. This is about the little things after all.

Let’s look at another beverage: bottled water.

Just buy a reusable water bottle already. Please, just buy a water bottle.

I understand, I really do. I admit to visiting a vending machine once in a while, and hating myself the whole time. I lose water bottles all the time, too. But each bottle I buy is a fresh chance that, maybe, this time I’ll manage to hold on to the same bottle for more than a week.

But needing water on the go, and being far from fountains, is a different issue than those who simply refuse to drink tap water. Someone who lives just down my hall takes a cab once every few weeks to load up of flats of bottles, because he will not condescend to drink Hamilton city water. I didn’t believe it when I first heard either. This is ridiculous. Some bottled water is just tap water anyway, and some does not even pass the stringent standards imposed on municipal water, so any justification beyond convenience is moot.

Small choices like these really do add up. Even simpler actions, like turning off the lights in empty rooms, buying shampoo that has not been tested on animals or even just a smile or a nod of acknowledgement at someone passing in the hallway is not by any measure strenuous.

Every decision you make is a statement. It’s a statement about your ideals, your principles and how much you care about the world around you. Think about what you’re saying.

McMaster’s Engineers Without Borders (EWB) is continuing their efforts to bring about a fair trade campus status for McMaster.

Last March, a motion was brought forth at the MSU’s general assembly for the MSU to work with the university to attain the status, but the motion was dismissed because quorum wasn’t reached.

A fair trade campus is a status granted by the Canadian Fair Trade Network that would mean all coffee sold at the university would be fair trade certified. In addition, there would have to be at least three fair-trade tea options and one chocolate option wherever tea and chocolate are sold.

Franchises such as Tim Horton’s that operate on campus would not be required to serve fair trade coffee.

There would also need to be a committee consisting of one university VP, a retail manager at the university, a manager from the Union Market, one faculty member and one student representative.

Fair trade signage would have to be visible where the products are offered, and the university’s website would need to indicate McMaster’s fair trade campus status.

Dani Mejia, director of fair trade awareness for EWB McMaster, said the organization will continue to promote and discuss how the initiative may be implemented.

“It would be a gradual change. We’ve been told it can’t happen overnight or even within a year,” said Mejia. “Even if many students aren’t aware of the benefits of fair trade, that’s exactly what we are trying to address [in our campaign],” she said.

As of Jan. 1, 2012, the MSU’s Union Market adopted the practice of selling fair trade only coffee as well as a selection of fair trade teas and chocolate.

Leigh Laidlaw, Chef Manager at Bridges Café, says Bridges currently serves fair trade coffee only, and he would be interested in serving fair-trade teas. Bridges has undertaken several sustainability initiatives in the past year, including a kitchen composting system and the eco container pilot program.

Other Canadian university campuses that have recently become fair trade certified include the University of British Columbia, the first to do so in Canada, and Simon Fraser University.

Halloween has always been a fun and festive time of the year where it is finally socially acceptable to put on a ridiculous outfit and demand free candy from your neighbours. And although many a student these days refrains from the routine knocking on doors and sugar seeking, All Hallows Eve can still merit a good time via costumes and the handing out of candy, rather than the gathering of it.

By taking on the task of giving instead of receiving, trick-or-treating receives a breath of new life and a positive spin for students, as Engineers Without Borders (EWB) puts on their costumes and struts the streets with a determination to promote fair trade goods in and around the McMaster neighborhood.

After multiple years of travelling around Hamilton, “Reverse Trick-or-Treating” returns on Wednesday Oct. 31, as EWB commits to their fair trade initiative by handing out Camino brand, fairly-traded chocolate and information packages to homes neighboring Mac’s campus.

“We try to change our route every year to cover more ground and spread the message farther into the community,” explains Dany Mejia, Fair Trade Director of the EWB McMaster Chapter. “We’ll hand out chocolates to students during the day on campus, but we mainly try to target family homes while reverse trick-or-treating.”

EWB is set-up with a variety of different teams catering to the different goals of the organization, including a specific branch for fair trade initiatives. For this particular activity, not only will the FT group be setting out into the community, but the entire Mac chapter will be sporting creative fair trade costumes and helping with the cause.

“A few of our team members will be dressed in banana costumes with giant fair trade logo stickers,” states Mejia. “The costumes help develop the theme of the evening and encourages discussion about what we’re promoting.”

This activity is just one of the many events EWB hopes to present this year in order to help achieve a Fair Trade Campus status for McMaster. Mejia, who is currently spearheading the initiative for a Fair Trade Campus, explains that last year brought about discussion with the Sustainability Office, the Dean, and Hospitality Services while looking into the promotion of this ideology. Mejia along with her team are currently looking into further developing these conversations and continuing the campaign to promote fair trade goods and services on campus.

Run through Fairtrade Canada, the Fair Trade Campus status was first achieved by the University of British Columbia in January of 2011. To achieve this status, a series of standards must be met that fall under the categories of Availability, Visibility and Committee.

In terms of Availability, EWB is working to have on-campus restaurants provide fair trade options. For instance, the MSU’s Union Market has already adopted the sale of fair trade tea, coffee and chocolate.

Working towards the goals of Visibility, EWB’s ventures, such as the reverse trick-or-treating along with their other events, like the fair trade candy grams that were handed out last year at Valentine’s Day, are used to promote information about the cause and make their efforts visible to the Mac community.

And for the Committee aspect, EWB, specifically their fair trade team, is working hard to keep up their game and continue to have a community representing their goals and aspirations for the cause.

As Engineers Without Borders continues to work towards the promotion of fair trade, look forward to hearing more about new product offerings and information on upcoming events and activities. And next Wednesday, remember to also keep your eyes peeled for do-gooder bananas handing out chocolates in a neighborhood near you.

Roy Campbell

Silhouette Staff


Vendors and restaurants across campus are considering how their products are manufactured as McMaster implements a new fair trade policy on campus. The new policy requires all vendors serving coffee, tea or chocolate to make available, fair trade certified options for these products.

This fair trade certification process comes as a result of efforts by several groups on campus, including the McMaster Students Union (MSU).

The movement to certify the McMaster campus as fair trade began last spring when the University of British Columbia became the first campus to be certified as such.

Members of the McMaster chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB) decided to push for the same certification at McMaster as a result of this initiative. They proposed the idea to the MSU and subsequently pitched the idea at the MSU’s 2011 General Assembly.

“We were definitely on board,” said Katie Ferguson, Vice President of Administration for the MSU. “It’s something that students really wanted.”

The MSU was responsible for ensuring that its two food vendors, the Union Market and TwelvEighty, met the requirements for certification.

“At Union Market we already offered the majority of our coffee as fair trade,” she said, as well as fair trade chocolate, leaving only tea as a point of concern.

As of Jan.1, the Union Market carries only fair trade coffee along with a selection of certified teas and chocolate. The majority of products did not need to be changed to meet fair trade standards.

Along with the MSU and EWB, McMaster’s Office of Sustainability, Hospitality Services, SRA members and other interested groups have also been involved in the effort.

McMaster’s Hospitality Services is doing its part to ensure that it meets fair trade requirements, while other independent vendors and cafes on campus are also following the trend.

On-campus franchises such as Tim Horton’s are exempt from fair trade regulations.

Ferguson noted that the availability and price of products and services at Union Market and TwelvEighty are not expected to change because of this process. “We’re not offering any less than we were offering previously,” she said.

Along with making fair trade products available, the certification effort further aims to spread awareness of the choices students have when purchasing products and the social issues related to fair trade initiatives.

An application was submitted to an independent fair trade certification board to recognize McMaster as an official fair trade campus. It is currently under review and is scheduled to be determined later this month.

Ferguson, however, is confident: “Regardless of whether the [certification] comes through this year or not ... I can see this being something that starts to create a little bit of buzz around campus.”

Kacper Niburski

Assistant News Editor

Although Halloween may be a time where our younger selves yearn the bygone days of mountainous piles of sweets and goodies, a group of students from McMaster, dressed primarily in gorilla costumes, have found something else to go bananas about.

In an effort to promote Fair Trade consumption and awareness, Engineers Without Borders (EWB), World University Service of Canada (WUSC), and MacGreen participated in an annual reverse Trick or Treat campaign entitled “Scare them Fair” on Oct. 31st  

Members, many of whom dressed as bananas, the Fair Trade product logo, or gorillas, gave out Oxfam Belgian Mini’s, one of the many Fair Trade chocolates sold in Canada, to unsuspecting passer-bys while participating in an open dialogue regarding the merits of Fair Trade, a stance taken by ethical supply chains.

“That’s the beauty of it,” said Amy Tang, a member of the EWB McMaster chapter. “Not only we’re we out there giving sweets – Fair Trade ones at that – but we were also giving information.”

Much of this “information” was meant as an introduction to Fair Trade for those who had not heard of it before and an attempt to clear up any ambiguities to those who have.

“Contrary to what the name of the campaign suggests, we want to use the fun of Halloween to start conversations with students, faculty, staff, and the general Hamilton community,” said Brandon Desbarbieux, coordinator of Fair Trade Awareness for EWB.

The event stands as an ongoing drive for consumer responsibility in the marketplace that originated in Vancouver, Canada’s largest Fair Trade city and home to Canada’s first Fair Trade Campus, University of British Columbia.

Similarly, McMaster is seeking Fair Trade Campus status. Tang noted that it has been a topic constantly up for discussion, and “that much of the faculty support it: Patrick Deane, Ilene-Busch-Vishniac; those are just some of the many.”

Some, however, have been known reject Fair Trade because it is often more expensive than other producers.

“This is a common misconception,” said Tang. “It does not have to be more expensive. If you look at Union Market, if you look at OPRIG Office on the second floor of MUSC, if you go to any chain super market, it is not. It actually costs less.”

Financial costs are only one consideration though.

While it is true that money may be the mitigating factor for some, it is certain that the social benefits are unquestionable. Even if it is the case that finances are a concern, the social costs greatly outrun the worries of any paper trail.

Tang argued this point. Highlighting the “Scare them Fair” event, she added that this pursuit of equitable consumption is becoming more popular, even at McMaster.

“When we were giving the chocolate out, a girl said, ‘Look, Mommy! Fair Trade chocolate.’ She didn’t say chocolate. She specified the kind. That’s evidence enough of the movement spreading.”

This, coupled with the joint advocacy of ethical purchases by three groups at McMaster, may very well be compelling. If it is, then perhaps in the near future, Halloween will become a time of united chants, “Monkeys. Bananas. Fair Trade. Oh my.”

Dina Fanara

Assistant News Editor

Each year, McMaster’s Ontario Public Interest Research Group (OPIRG) joins forces with local stores and vendors of fair trade products to put on the annual Fair Trade Fair in the McMaster University Student Centre (MUSC) atrium.

The fair, which has been taking place for over ten years, shrunk slightly in size this year, but is still going strong.

Products for sale included the usual Fair Trade Certified chocolates, coffee, and tea, jewellery from all over the world, Christmas ornaments, clay and wooden figurines, clothing, journals, soaps, moisturizers and several other odds and ends.

Also present at the Fair was McMaster’s Engineers Without Borders (EWB), promoting Fair Trade Certification awareness, focusing on educating students on the process for products to become certified, and why it is important to purchase Fair Trade products when possible.

According to one EWB volunteer, Meaghan Langille, fair trade “promotes social responsibility by ensuring that that the people who made the product that you’re purchasing were paid a fair wage and ethical working conditions.”

“It’s a great way to promote a global economy,” she said about the event. “It’s something that we can do to help people in developing countries through what we are purchasing and consuming,” said Langille.

It was widely expressed by several vendors that a second-term event, which used to occur but was stopped several years ago, would be greatly beneficial to the cause.

Another suggestion was to add another day to the first-term fair, as many students asked vendors if they would be returning the following day.

Subscribe to our Mailing List

© 2022 The Silhouette. All Rights Reserved. McMaster University's Student Newspaper.